Murdoch PhD student Hamish McKirdy has received a Young Achiever Award for his work contributing to the development of new pest control technologies.The two technologies will help move the wine industry away from traditionally used agricultural chemicals, paving the way for environmentally friendlier vine growing.
McKirdy, a third-year Agricultural Science PhD student at the Food Futures Institute, has closely aligned his research to address wine industry needs and areas of concern.
“I started collaborating with vineyards in the south-west last year and developed a keen interest in the pest management and biosecurity issues they faced,” said McKirdy.
“Viticulture is a challenging branch of horticulture at the best of times, so I take a great deal of pride in being able to help growers protect their vines from existing and unforeseen threats.”
The first treatment he co-developed involves the application of ethyl formate and nitrogen both as quarantine and post-harvest fumigant. The second is the application of synthetic amorphous silica (SAS) dust as both a trunk drench and foliage spray.
Biosecurity is a global issue, and I believe both the fumigation and the dust technology have the potential to be invaluable tools well beyond our national borders."“There has been significant trialling of the fumigation technology at various quarantine facilites and the SAS dust has been trialled in the vineyards of leading Margaret River wineries.
“I have relied on creative collaboration from industry, allowing me to specifically tailor solutions to meet their needs.”
McKirdy began his current collaborations after receiving the Wine Australia Award from the 2020 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
His previous award was for a research project that uses economic modelling to help tackle one of the wine industry’s most invasive pests – the brown marmorated stink bug.
The new treatments were developed alongside McKirdy’s PhD supervisor, Professor YongLin Ren, and others in the Post-Harvest Biosecurity & Food Safety Laboratory at Murdoch.
The demand for organic solutions to biosecurity problems is growing as the environmental impact of chemicals comes into sharper focus, both in industry and at home.
Professor YongLin Ren and his team are at the forefront of developing those solutions with several new treatments and technologies under patent for industrial biosecurity.